Video Game: Super Mario Bros. 1


The first game in the Super Mario Bros. series, but the fourth game overall that stars Mario, and the game that singlehandedly kicked off the Eight Bit Era. After appearing in Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., and Wrecking Crew, the Mario brothers moved on to the game that set loads of standards. Not just for platform games, but just about any genre that used conventions established in this game.

The general story is that Bowser, the ornery King of the Koopas, has conquered the Mushroom Kingdom and turned all of her subjects into background textures— er, bricks and shrubbery. The Kingdom's Princess is the only one who can revert his dark magic, but he has kidnapped her in order to prevent this. Mario, ever the gallant one, storms each of Bowser's castles looking for her. Unfortunately for Mario (and you), Bowser has several body doubles, and there's no way to tell who's the real one, so it's long road ahead.

Really, the importance of this game can be easy to underestimate by today's standards. There simply weren't games like it. "Golden Age" games were more simple, and had fallen out of favor in the US due to the The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, and games on PCs were more complex, which meant they didn't have the accessibility or mass appeal.

This game hit that sweet spot in the middle. It was simple enough that it could attain mass appeal, yet it also exhibited enough depth to be stimulating for more devoted gamers. Some might dismiss its sales due to being bundled, but it was sold separately in Japannote , and was still a smash hit. This game helped sell the NES to a game-weary audience, and elevated Nintendo to the top of the gaming companies.

And this of course had loads of sequels and follow-ups in the Super Mario Bros. series, as well as loads of imitators.

The original game was remade with SNES graphics along with the other NES titles in Super Mario All-Stars. There was also a Game Boy Color version called Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. This included a challenge mode where you had to get a high score, collect 5 red coins, and find the Yoshi egg in each stage; a two-player race mode; badges and other images awarded for achievements; a high-score table; extra utilities and printables; a hidden "You vs. Boo" mode (a one-player version of the two-player game); and a hidden conversion of Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.

Nobuo Uematsu has stated that the theme music, originally created by Koji Kondo, should be Japan's national anthem.

This game provides examples of:

  • Actually a Doombot: The first seven "Bowsers" are actually regular enemies who are somehow disguised as him. Flinging fireballs at the fake Bowsers will reveal their true forms (along with a fat bonus to your score).
  • All There in the Manual: The Koopa are a clan of sorcerers who have brought the Mushroom Kingdom to ruin by transforming its citizens into the bricks you break (and thus the items are "gifts" from the transformed citizens to help you) and various other background objects. The only one who can break this curse is Princess Pea..., er "Toadstool"note , which is why Bowser has kidnapped her. This bit of lore was dropped in later games.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: The Great Giana Sisters. So much that Nintendo actually sued. The later Giana Sisters games went through Derivative Differentiation.
    • Sega's Alex Kidd in Miracle World was not such an obvious clone, but still fits the trope (and was correspondingly packaged with or built in to the Sega Master System, the NES's rival).
  • Always Night: Worlds 3 and 6note .
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The American instruction manual makes repeated references to enemies being killed. The Japanese manual merely says they are defeated.
  • Animated Adaptation: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show adapts both this and Super Mario Bros. 2.
  • Antepiece: the game has great level design involving interesting yet accessible setpieces. One tool it'll use is to build up to a complicated setpiece with an "antepiece". For example, in the first level, there's a part with a staircase followed by a pit; jumping up the staircase without falling into the pit, and then getting over the pit, is a rather hard and scary proposition. So there's a part right before it which is mostly the same, except the pit won't kill you. This allows you to practice the setpiece in a safe environment. You can read more and see a picture of this setpiece-antepiece pair here: [1]
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The Game Boy Color port of the game, due to it's inevitably smaller screen resolution, allows the player to reorient the screen by pressing up, or pressing select so that the camera view stays fixed ahead of Mario. Likewise, the original games Ratchet Scrolling has been slightly nerfed in this port so that Mario can slightly backtrack in a level, again to accomodate the smaller view of the screen.
  • Art Evolution: According to this Iwata Asks, Miyamoto utilised external illustrators to flesh out his rough pencil sketches since Donkey Kong. When it came time to do this game's (Japanese) package illustrationnote , Miyamoto had to do the art himself, since there was no time left for him to hire a mainstream artist. This was the result. It was Yoichi Kotabe who fleshed out the designs of the characters since then. Notable mention goes to Bowser. Miyamoto himself was aiming for the appearance of an ox for Bowser's design, even though he's supposed to be a turtle. Upon reflection on this, Miyamoto remarked, "I'd been drawing something completely incomprehensible - a turtle's body with an ox's head!" In a Mythology Gag, Midbus, Bowser's rival from Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, more closely resembles an ox, with some boar characteristics thrown in.
  • Artifact Title: Super Mario Bros. is a completely different game from the original Mario Bros., most notably lacking the 2P co-op mode from the original (being replaced by an alternating mode instead). As a result, Luigi's presence in the game feels rather thrown in, since it makes no difference whether the second player controls Luigi or another Mario. The sequels would try to remedy this by either: making Luigi into a selectable character with a different play-style (as seen in both versions of Super Mario Bros. 2) or by adding a competitive aspect to the 2P mode (as seen in Super Mario Bros. 3).
  • The Artifact: Mario and Luigi being plumbers and travelling through pipes. This made sense in Mario Bros., which was set in New York's sewers; not so much in the Mushroom Kingdom. However, it became an integral part of the gameplay and setting, and its incongruous nature helped create the series' World of Chaos reputation.
    • Mario being able to hit enemies on top of a block by hitting the block below them (in fact, the whole concept of hitting blocks from below) is a hold over from the gameplay of the original Mario Bros., where it was your only means of attack (Mario couldn't Goomba Stomp in that game, so he had to knock an enemy on their back by hitting the floor below them, allowing him to run up and then knock them off the screen). Fortunately, this managed to fit in with the more flexible play style of this game (it helps that in this game, the move offs an enemy on the spot instead of just stunning them), so it was carried over into future installments.
  • Ascended Glitch:
    • The multi-coin blocks were reportedly a programming error that was left in because they liked it.
    • The Minus World. On the cartridge version it was a glitch that sent the player to a level that didn't exist; it was only by sheer luck that the level was completely playable. When the game was ported to the Famicom Disk System, the programmers replaced it with completable -1, -2, -3, which were based on other glitched levels in the cartridge.
  • Attract Mode: It features one, and the computer's one of the worst Mario players ever (most likely to minimize spoilers).
  • Bald of Evil: Bowser. Averted in both the original artwork and the Super Mario All-Stars remake.
  • Battle Theme Music: Averted in the original version, played straight in the All-Stars version.
  • Big Bad: Bowser.
  • Bottomless Pits: Everywhere.
  • Bubbly Clouds: The "Coin Heaven" bonus areas.
  • Cheat Code: After Game Over, press Start while holding down the A button to start at the world you died in. Mercifully, if you forget which button and try pressing Start while holding B, nothing happens.
  • Cheated Angle: In the original game, the Mario Bros. always have their head to the side they're walking towards, even when they aren't moving and the rest of their body is facing the screen. The only time they ever fully face the viewer is if they're dying.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: See Gameplay and Story Segregation below.
  • Collision Damage
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Red mushrooms (extra hit point) vs. green (1-Up), red Koopas (they patrol specific areas) vs. green (they come straight at you).
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: There's no difference between Mario and Luigi in terms of playability.
  • Color Contrast: Basic color contrasts such as Blue, red green and brown contrasts are abundant (the grass and water levels), sometimes with black and grey (the underground and snow levels) or red, black and grey (the Castles). The NES had an extremely limited color palette and they had very little memory to work with on the game.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: World 6-3, is either this, or simply a representation of snow.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The backstory, All There in the Manual, explains how the Koopa clan transformed the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, and only the princess can undo this. The later games never mention this.
    • The game also used Ratchet Scrolling, which prevented players from going back. Most Mario games after this abandoned this type of scrolling for Auto-Scrolling Level in a few places while allowing backtracking in everything else.
    • The timer also ticked away at a much faster pace compared to the later Mario games.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The FDS version contains Air Bloopers in level -3.
  • Easter Egg:
    • If you wait long enough on the title screen, then a brief demo will start to play.
    • Also, run out of time as Fiery Mario.
  • Elite Mook: Hammer Brothers.
  • Endless Game: Famous for averting it, although technically, you can play the levels again after the ending.
  • Every 10,000 Points/Law of 100: 100 coins equal a 1-Up.
  • Excuse Plot
  • Fireballs: From the Fire Flower, of course.
  • Flying Seafood Special: Cheep-Cheeps, which jump out of the water and into the air.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: There is actually only one Buzzy Beetle that can be killed with fireballs in this game. It's disguised as Bowser at the end of World 3-4.
  • Guide Dang It: Each x-1 level has a hidden 1-Up Mushroom in it. Besides the one in 1-1, they only appear if you've gotten all the coins in the previous x-3 level or used a Warp Pipe (e.g. to get the one in 2-1, you need to get all the coins in 1-3).
  • Hard Mode Filler: Some of the later stages. Namely Worlds 5-3, 5-4, 6-4, 7-2, 7-3 and 7-4, which are harder versions of 1-3, 2-4, 1-4, 2-2, 2-3 and 4-4 respectively. In the Vs. arcade version, these harder stages are bumped ahead and replaced with new stages that later formed part of Lost Levels.
  • Idle Animation: Sort of. If you stay in one spot for 30 seconds, with a Hammer Bother nearby, the Hammer Brother will leave its perch, and actively start chasing you.
  • Infinite 1-Ups: Line a Koopa shell just right against a staircase at the end of 1-1 or 3-1, and your jumps will turn into a chain reaction, triggering loads of points followed by One Ups.
    • Game-Breaking Bug: But woe to you if you exceed 127 lives, because the life counter will overflow into negative lives, causing your next death to be a Game Over.Details 
  • In Name Only: Aside from the presence of Mario, Luigi, turtle enemies, and coins, Super Mario Bros really doesn't have anything to do with Mario Bros., although it does have some similar elements (you can still attack enemies from below when they are on brick platforms).
  • Invincibility Power-Up: The Starman and its famous jingle debut here.
  • Jump Physics: The game has very well thought out jump physics, and the level designs were tailored around it. Mario can jump five times his height, can jump farther when running, and he mainstains just enough midair control to cut short a forward jump. Mario holds his momentum for a bit when he's in mid air or lands, even if the d-pad is released. Even if he bumps into a wall in motion, he still holds his momentum and maintains mid air jump control. If he bumps his head into something, it quickly knocks him back down (the cramped Castle levels are specifically designed to use this against you) but it won't stop him from moving.
  • Knight of Cerebus: While the franchise would eventually feature much more wicked villains in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi games, Bowser is still this compared to Donkey Kong and Foreman Spike. Donkey was an Anti-Villain who was trying to get back at Mario for abusing him, and Spike was a regular human who also happened to be a jerk and a Bad Boss, but Bowser, the draconic Evil Overlord, is genuinely intimidating.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The castle levels.
  • Level 1 Music Represents: The overworld theme has become the iconic theme of the Mario series, as well as nearly every crossover and non video game appearance Mario has had.
  • Marathon Level: Level 8-1 is looooooooooooong. Even harder than making all of the tricky jumps is reaching the end before time runs out!
  • Market-Based Title: Subverted. Copyrights documents (and at least one brochure for the arcade version) suggest that Nintendo originally considered renaming the game Mario's Adventure for the American market, but they decided to keep the original name instead.
  • Minus World: A famous example, coined by Nintendo Power's coverage of the glitch. Japan, meanwhile, discovered even more such worlds through a process that involves swapping out the game's cartridge with Tennis while the console's still running.
  • Nintendo Hard: Although at the lower end compared to other infamously hard games. A main issue is that one-ups are so uncommon; there are exactly 8 hidden one-up blocks in the game, and coins are far less common than in later Mario games, making extra lives in a game with no save feature much more precious to have.
  • 1-Up: Trope Maker. The green 1-Up Mushrooms have appeared in almost every other Mario game since.
  • Pac Man Fever: Lots of sound effects from this game have turned up in children's TV shows, particularly in scenes set at arcades (there were arcade cabinet versions of the game, but it's unlikely any of those writers knew that).
  • Palette Swap: Not just with enemies; the bushes and clouds use the same tiles.
    • Backgrounds, too; Worlds 3 and 6 apparently take place at night.
  • Pipe Maze: World 8-4. The pipes are the key to progressing through the level, and going down the wrong one will send you back to the beginning.
  • Platform Game: Trope Maker and Trope Codifier for many platform tropes.
  • Ratchet Scrolling
    • Required by the way levels were stored. Each "object" in the level had a "page select" flag which, when set, told the game to advance one screenful to the right. There was no code for going back one screen, however, and as there could be a variable number of objects per page, the algorithms involved would have been a bit too complicated for the NES, where every byte and every clock cycle counted (and they were already running low on ROM space as it was). So while the game could be told to go to the next screen, there was no way to start loading objects from the previous screen, hence why you can only go right.
    • The Game Boy Color version does allow you to scroll back slightly, but only because the screen is smaller than the NES version's.
  • Rearrange the Song: The Vs. arcade version totally redid the ending theme. In addition, a Hi-Score theme was also added.
  • Save the Princess: And she's in another castle.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Killing Bowser in 8-4 with the fire flower. The actual task isn't hard, but getting to him with that power up, much less getting and keeping the power up in World 8, is one of the hardest challenges in the game.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Worlds 3, 5 and 7, although "snow" in this game is just recolored trees and pipes. The All-Stars version of the game improves on this by making the ground actually look snowy.
  • Super Drowning Skills/Super Not-Drowning Skills: Yes, both of them. If you're underwater, nothing aside from the standard timer can stop you from staying under for as long as you want. On the other hand, falling into a pit filled with water doesn't even slow your fall.
  • This Was His True Form: If defeated with fireballs rather than being thrown into the lava, the Bowsers of Worlds 1-7 are revealed to be simple minor enemies which have taken Bowser's form, likely using more of that Koopa Clan magic you only ever hear about in the manual.
  • Timed Mission: Every single level. The timer also counts down faster here than in Mario's later games.
  • Underground Level: World 1-2 and World 4-2.
  • Under the Sea: World 2-2 and World 7-2.
  • Unique Enemy: Lakitu usually follows Mario throughout a level, however in World 8, Level 2, Lakitu follows you for only maybe 30 seconds before backing off. It's probably because this particular level is rather complicated, involving a lot of pits requiring necessary timed jumps. Having no Lakitu present makes the level somewhat easier. Although one wonders why the programmers even bothered putting him in that level in the first place.
  • Updated Re-release:
  • When All Else Fails, Go Right: The Ratchet Scrolling prevents Mario from going left.

Peach:Thank you Mario
Your quest is over. We present a new quest
Press Button B to select a world